Redundancy: softening the blow

It is never easy making someone you know redundant. But it can be even harder when you've worked closely with them in a small business environment.

Sean Fleming, founder of Clarity PR, experienced this difficulty when he had to let a senior member of his team go due to a change in his business.

He says: ‘The individual was upset because she was put through a process she found confusing. It also damaged the morale of the team. It wasn’t a good thing.’

However, there are ways to soften the blow when making an employee redundant, not only for the sake of the company’s reputation but when personal relationships are at stake, too.

Aside from the minefield of legal obligations you need to observe, there are also personal factors to consider.

Jo Lindsay, director at Reed Consulting, stresses the importance of clear communication and structure when giving the bad news to people you have worked with.

She says: ‘You must let them know what’s going to happen next and the timescales involved in the procedure. It’s never going to be a pleasant process but this can help them mentally prepare for what’s coming.’

Lindsay believes that interaction is key. By letting your employee know why the role is earmarked for closure you may help prevent them feeling targeted as an individual.

She adds: ‘A series of meetings as to why [the person] is being made redundant, as opposed to just covering the basic legal requirements, will also make them feel more involved in the process and give them a chance to air any grievances properly.’

Ceri Roderick, of business psychology specialist Pearn Kandola Employment, advises talking to the individual concerned about their feelings. He says: ‘Helping people to understand it helps them get out of the slough of despond more quickly. Just to say, “Here are some things you can expect to be feeling, there will be light at the end of the tunnel” can be helpful.’

Soothing words are all very well, but you may also wish to provide practical help. Outplacement support, for example, offers employees the opportunity to evaluate their skills and consider their future career prospects. This usually takes the form of a series of one-to-one interviews until the individual has decided on their next career move. Employers usually arrange for this service to be provided by a third-party company while the employee is still working for them.

The idea, if not the practice of outplacement support, is becoming more popular. A recent survey by Reed revealed that 78 out of 100 HR departments feel the provision of outplacement could improve the organisation’s reputation.

Of course, there is no painless way of having to make someone you have worked with redundant. But there are ways to minimise the damage to the employee and your company.

Related: Are part-time employees entitled to redundancy pay?

Alan Dobie

Alan Dobie

Alan was assistant editor at Vitesse Media Plc (previous owner of before moving on to a content producer role at Reed Business Information. He has over 17 years of experience in the...

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